Fantasy Baseball: The 20 Unluckiest Pitchers in 2016
As we've mentioned recently, evaluating the performance of a starting pitcher goes much deeper than the traditional statistics we normally see attached to their names.
When it comes to finding potentially undervalued commodities at any point in fantasy baseball drafts, it's important to look at more than just wins and losses, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts in the draft queue. Those stats are important, but it's just as important to look at advanced stats to see if there are any trends that go unnoticed by the competition.
A good way to see which starters may have been a little more unlucky in 2016 than their peers is by using SIERA.
According to FanGraphs, SIERA attempts to measure the underlying skill of a hurler. Unlike FIP and xFIP, SIERA doesn't ignore balls put in play, and it also attempts to give a more accurate picture as to why certain pitchers are better than others. A good SIERA is just like a good ERA -- the lower the better.
Of all the qualified starting pitchers, here are the 20 who experienced the worst luck in 2016, with some other stats to provide more context to their performance.
Comparing to the Overperformers
Like our list of SIERA overperformers, pitchers whose traditional stats were better than their advanced metrics, there are a lot of recognizable names here -- even a couple past Cy Young winners in David Price and Dallas Keuchel. However, the hurlers above don't have the same, general warm and fuzziness when thinking about their 2016 performance as the other guys do.
Here are the average stats from each group in every category, along with the overall average among qualified starters.
|2016 MLB Average||21.41%||7.27%||1.15||.289||74.60%||3.89||4.10||-0.21|
It's interesting to see that the underperformers actually posted slightly better numbers in strikeout rate and walk rate, but the optimism ends there. The average BABIP among qualified hurlers was .289, which is a number just one of them achieved (Josh Tomlin at .276).
With mostly inflated BABIP's across the board, it only makes sense to see the underperformers post a much worse LOB%, along with everything else after that.
Know Where to Look for Possible Value
Now, not all these pitchers should be viewed equally. Even though hurlers like James Shields and Wade Miley show up, it doesn't mean they have some kind of hidden value. Finding the top underperformers is a good starting point before diving deeper into why their season-long numbers ended up where they did.
At the very top, Michael Pineda and Robbie Ray are intriguing because of their elite strikeout numbers. Upon checking out the progression from his rookie to sophomore seasons, Jon Gray is an interesting commodity, despite having to pitch at Coors Field. Chris Archer also pitched much better than his 9-19 record suggests. Marcus Stroman struggled at times, but his strong second half should bring some optimism.
In Garcia's case, he didn't have the best defensive team behind him with the St. Louis Cardinals last year. Manager Mike Matheny's club went from a top-5 defensive squad in 2015 to outside the top-15 in 2016, according to FanGraphs. The Atlanta Braves weren't leaps and bounds better, but it could provide the southpaw with a small boost.
Not only is Volquez switching from the American League to National League in 2017, but he gets a nice park shift. Kauffman Stadium isn't known as a hitter-friendly park, but it ranked fifth-highest in runs last season, according to ESPN's Park Factor. He'll be moving to Marlins Park, which came in at 27th.
Anyone can pick studs within the first few rounds, but it's important to uncover some potentially hidden gems later on.
This SIERA exercise probably won't change which starting pitchers you target at the start of drafts, and it shouldn't. However, it could help give you more confidence in the middle and late rounds, which is where fantasy championships are won a lot of times.
None of the above 20 hurlers had the kind of season they were hoping for in 2016, but it wasn't all bad. Each situation is unique, but there are reasons to like what many could offer your fantasy squad next season. Lots of times, it's just a matter of doing a little more research than others so you're better prepared once you're on the clock.